A Travellerspoint blog

September 2019

Day sixteen - back to Tbilisi

Travel day from Zeda Gordi to Tbilisi

sunny 23 °C

Travel plans on how to get to Tbilisi kept changing as different people gave us differing advice. Initially we intended to get a taxi to Kutaisi and then get a train to Tbilisi. The schedule wasn’t brilliant as the only two trains were in the afternoon and it is a 4 1/2 hour journey. Dimitiri, our host at the hotel advised us that a marshrutka from Kutaisi would be better as it took less time and there were more of them. We decided to forget the train.

After another filling breakfast, we said our goodbyes to Dimitri and the other staff. Our taxi arrived promptly at 10am. As we wended our way down the valley our driver suggested that instead of paying 60 lari for an uncomfortable marshrutka journey - he could take us all the way to Tbilisi for 200 lari. The idea that we could miss Kutaisi and the hustle and bustle of the bus station was too tempting, so we agreed. Our driver didn’t speak much English but had studied German at school and we managed to communicate quite adequately. He had been a policeman in Tbilisi and now lived in Kutaisi - I think he had a family business now related to cars. Not completely sure about this though!

Quick fact about Kutaisi. Anne Lister - subject of the BBC drama Gentleman Jack - died of a fever In Kutaisi whilst travelling with her wife Ann Walker. Apparently, very few people from the west, let alone unaccompanied women, ever travelled there. Her body was embalmed and it took six months to get the body back to the uk to be buried in Halifax.

We stopped somewhere around the Kashuri area for lunch at a really nice roadside cafe. Can’t pinpoint exactly where it is and what it was called but the food was good. We bought lunch for the driver who seemed to be quite surprised at the gesture.


The whole journey was relatively traffic free until we hit Tbilisi. He headed to Nick and Lindsay’s Vinotel first. They wanted to have the treat of a luxury stay as their holiday is coming to an end. Their hotel is very tasteful. I then took a taxi to my hotel - Hotello - on the other side of the river in the Mtasaminda area. From the outside it looks quite shabby but the room is really nice - large and very clean plus I have the novelty of a round bed and a bath! Breakfast is also included.

I went for a wander before it got dark. Rustaveli was closed when we were here at the start of our holiday because of the Fast and Furious filming so I had a little wander as it was just behind the hotel. After a fortnight of bread, cheese and more cheese - I headed to the veggie and vegan cafe - Mama Terra which is quite close to the funicular. We had passed it a couple of times. It felt as if I had stepped into a Bristol cafe! I had a Rainbow warm quinoa salad with not a smidgen of dairy anywhere, followed by a plate of fruit. Just what I needed for a change of diet.


Then it was back to the hotel. There was something going on outside the Parliament building but I couldn’t make out what was happening. Looked like a demonstration about the Russians encroaching on Georgian territory. Apparently they currently occupy 20% of it.

After a cup of tea - there is a kettle AND cups in the room, unlike Villa Dolly - it was time to call it a day as I crawled into my large, round bed! One thing that has been consistently good in Georgia have been the beds - all of them have been firm but comfortable which has been great for my back.

Posted by Cath_Greig 21:00 Archived in Georgia Tagged taxi tbilisi kutaisi anne_lister Comments (0)

Day fifteen - Okatse waterfall or bust

Tuesday 10 September 2019

After a filling breakfast we started the day with a tour around the winery and learnt a little bit about the Chikovani family who have a strong connection to the Dadianis, who were lords of Samegrelo.


There haven’t been many guests while we’ve been staying as their high season is May to August and the hotel is full. They have been gradually expanding and will be installing tennis courts and an indoor swimming pool as well as other seating areas for dining. Dimitri who took us round is the nephew of the owner and although he lives and works in Tbilisi, comes to help out regularly. He is a really lovely guy and we’ve been grateful for his help and guidance.

I was keen to get to the waterfalls and Nick and Lindsay fancied a walk into the hills so I thought I’d check out taxis. They were charging 60 lari round trip which was expensive for one person so I decided to start walking in the hope that the marshrutka would go by or someone might give me a lift. I had probably walked about a third of the way there when a van stopped and asked if I wanted a lift. It turned out that it was the guy who I’d spoken to the day before about a trip to Martvilli Canyon & Prometheus cave. He was taking a Russian couple to the waterfall and they were offering me a lift for no payment. We ended going up to the pool that we were meant to go to the day before. We hadn’t been aware that it was quite a distance uphill from where we had actually stopped by the river. A few hair pin bends, a really rough road and then a mud track with massive puddles full of water. The road was only negotiable with a 4 wheel drive or on foot.


The waterfall and pool were definitely worth visiting. Some people were walking behind the waterfall but no-one was getting into the pool apart from a bit of paddling on the edges. It was pretty cold even where the water was shallow. I could have gone down to the main visitor centre as the driver, Amiran, was happy to drop me off so that I could see the main waterfall, but the opportunity of a lift back was too strong so I declined. We did stop to take a picture though.


When we got back to Zeda Gordi I offered to buys drinks to say thanks for the lift but the two Russians were heading off as they were in their own car and Amiran declined. I managed to get back to the hotel before Nick & Lindsay who arrived about ten minutes after me. They had taken a pathway fairly close to where we had walked on the day we arrived and had got up to the top of the ridge where they had fantastic views over the countryside.

We had some time relaxing in the garden. Nick even jumped into the pool but it was a bit too cold for staying in. There is no shallow end, only deep water, so probably never heats up. We ate outside despite a chill in the air. Again, the portions were pretty huge and I struggled to eat mine. We were entertained by a flock of sheep that race around the garden, jumping over fences and generally causing mayhem whilst driving the dogs wild. We are endlessly amused by the antics of the feral animals that seem to be everywhere! And here are my favourite pigs that I saw earlier in the day by the side of the road.


Posted by Cath_Greig 10:36 Comments (0)

Day fourteen - Zeda Gordi becomes a ghost town

Monday 9 September 2019

sunny 24 °C

Like many countries, attractions are shut for the day on Mondays. We decided to hike up to the waterfalls even though we wouldn’t be able to go into the official site, we were given directions to get the the pools at the bottom. It had been a very windy night and when the light wouldn’t switch on, I realised that the power was down again. The hotel has a generator to power essentials but it meant the internet was down again.

After another good and filling breakfast, I went on ahead in the slim chance that I could get a coffee at one of the cafes. As I suspected, everything was closed except the small shop. It was like a ghost town with tumble weed blowing through it, literally, as strong winds were whistling through the village. It was still pretty hot though. While I waited for the others, I was approached by a couple of taxi drivers again. Life was must be so hard for people and, without the walkway and waterfall, the village would not have any external income coming in.

Although we had to walk along the road, it was a pleasant one as there were hardly any cars. We had great views all the way along and could see for miles into the distance. We passed a lot of small hotels and guest houses along the way. Not sure if many people stay here or whether they are more likely to do day trips from elsewhere.


When we got to the last sign for the waterfall we got a bit confused as to where we had to go and ended up turning off too soon but still managed to find a peaceful place by the river to have a rest.


The 7k walk back felt easier as there was more downhill than uphill. A church was in the process of being built and there was a sign asking for donations at the side of the road. I wonder how successful their fundraising efforts are.


Near one of the guest houses on the way back down there was a great looking tree house. Would love to have a picnic up there.


The shop was still open in Zeda Gordi where we bought water and snacks. The afternoon was spent relaxing next to the pool that had just been refilled. I went for the hammock but as the sun disappeared it started to get chilly with the wind still quite high - time to go inside.

I had the Katchapuri and salad which was very good although too much for one person. Luckily the others helped me so it all got eaten. A party of Russians arrived at the hotel so we were no longer the only guests for the night. It looked as if they were on a tour as they had a minibus and Georgian driver with them.

We were going to round off the meal with a cognac but none of the staff were around - it was as if they had disappeared into thin air! Maybe something for tomorrow as it would be our last night at Chateau Chikovani...

Posted by Cath_Greig 00:01 Archived in Georgia Tagged waterfalls river chateau_chikovani zeda_gordi kinchkha Comments (0)

Day thirteen - Sore heads and vertigo inducing walkways

A trip to the Okatse Canyon

sunny 28 °C

Our hotel is within walking distance of Okatse Canyon - our destination for the day. We had a great breakfast with a choice of bread, cheese, olives, pancakes with sour cream, plum jam and melon. None of our friends from the previous evening were at breakfast. I can only imagine how they were feeling this morning.


We headed for the canyon, timing it badly as a coach party had just arrived creating a long queue. We’ve noticed that transactions take a long time in Georgia and people push in not understanding the convention of queuing. It’s a distance of about 2km to get to the Canyon and the walkway. Taxi drivers try to persuade you that the canyon is like walking to the ends of the earth and that you really need a taxi to get there. The walk was very pleasant and much nicer than bumping along a dirt road. It also means that you can slow down the pace and take things in. There are also lots of animals such as pigs foraging around. To our surprise, who should we meet running up the hill but two of the guys - one of whom had been really worse for wear last night. They looked pretty good and were running to burn off the alcohol in their systems!


We met some lovely Georgian women from Tbilisi who were touring around to see the sights. The entry to the canyon walkway was through a turnstile - from there you descend down a lot of steps to get to the walkway. There are signs at the visitor centre warning people that it is not suitable for people who suffer from fear of heights. I can see why. The structure ‘hangs’ over the canyon held there by metal stanchions and wire suspension. The metal grating that you walk over allows you to look at the view below. I surprised myself as I have always suffered a bit from vertigo but, as long as I held the handrail, I felt safe and didn’t feel scared at all. At one point you ascend steps and the walkway is on ‘dry land’ until the platform which juts out into thin air just held there by suspension wires.


At the point we realised that this was a one way system - we’d noticed that we didn’t pass anyone going the other way. My companions were relieved that we didn’t have to go back the way that we had come. Steep steps to the top of the canyon led to a welcome sight - a small cafe selling drinks and ice-cream. Taxi drivers tried to persuade us that we couldn’t possibly walk back and the Georgian women we met checked with their driver about a lift, too. We declined as walking is part of our holiday plans although it was very kind of them to offer.

Once we got back to the village I stopped for lunch and had cornbread and salad surrounded by hungry dogs who looked at me pleadingly. Although the cafe looked quite makeshift, the food was good and it also had WiFi. There seems to be better infrastructure here in Georgia compared to rural areas of the UK.


The rest of the day was spent relaxing outside in the gardens, reading and relaxing until the evening meal. This time I managed to order the right thing - bean stew. It was the best I’ve had so far, slightly spicy and very thick and creamy. A few drinks - no raucous behaviour tonight as we were the only guests - and then it was time for bed..

Posted by Cath_Greig 12:40 Archived in Georgia Tagged gorge zeda_gordi okatse_canyon Comments (0)

Day twelve - back inland to the mountains

Saturday 7 September 2019

rain 24 °C

Woke up to a wet start to the day. We ditched plans for getting the bus to Batumi and flagged down a taxi instead. It costs 20 lari from Kvariati to Batumi. Traffic wasn’t too busy being a Saturday but Nick had to direct the taxi driver using google maps. A marshrutka to Kutaisi was loading up so we got on and then went to find something to eat. The buses was only half full so we were confident it wouldn’t leave without us. The bus station is very noisy and chaotic and all we managed to get was biscuits and some bananas but better than nothing , although I could have murdered a coffee.

The start of the journey was very wet but we gradually headed into drier conditions and the sun came out. It’s a two and a half hour journey to Kutaisi with one short cigarette break for the driver. We are beginning to get used to these long journeys in cramped conditions and no toilet on board! Our final destination was a hotel called Chateau Chikovani close to Okatse Canyon and miles from any town. The countryside we travelled through seemed to be full of small holdings and at various places, stall holders selling their home grown produce such as apples, figs, plums and the strings of walnuts in fruit. Kutaisi bus station was busy and jammed with cars and marshrutka. As soon as you get off you are assailed by taxi drivers. We were expecting a lift from the hotel but hadn’t heard back from them. Nick managed to persuade someone to ring the hotel for us - they offered to come and collect us but it would take an hour to get to Kutaisi. We decided to brave a taxi. To get away from the melee and to refuel, we went to MaccyDs as they had WiFi and decent toilets. I went to another cafe to get coffee and a carb laden bread and potato ‘wrap’.

Nick negotiated with a driver - the cost was 60 lari which is what the hotel would have charged us. Another argument erupted as taxi drivers who had intercepted us as we got off the bus were royally hacked off that we hadn’t chosen them. It seems that most arguments we’ve encountered have been related to travel. It was a beautiful drive to the canyon, a few hair pin bends but no death defying drops. We got a bit confused when we go to the village of Zeda Gordi, not helped by the language barrier. It turned out that the driver had been right about where our hotel was but we had insisted on being dropped off at the canyon whilst the hotel was further back down the road at the end of a muddy track. I waited with the bags whilst the others searched for the hotel and some time later a car appeared to pick me and the bags up.

The hotel is set in lovely grounds reached via an unmetalled road. The storm the previous night had knocked out the electricity and the internet had been down which is why we hadn’t heard from the hotel. The car that picked me up was driven by the IT guy who had come to fix it! The hotel is lovely with an outside seating area and gardens with water features. The rooms are spacious and plentiful so we could take our pick. I opted for one with a terrace.


We ordered dinner for 7.30pm and went for an explore as we had two hours to kill. We checked out the canyon visitor centre before walking through the village. We got off the road and started down gravelled tracks heading in the general direction of a church that we could see atop a hill. It was hard going over rough ground but we could see some steep steps up to the church. When we got there it was obvious that these steps hadn’t been looked after - handrails were missing, steps had fallen off. It was a bit of a death trap but we’d come so far we decided to carry on upwards just as the rain started to come down. By the time we got to the top it was pouring but we managed to work our way round to the church which was absolutely tiny. There was a building next door that looked deserted - we wondered whether monks live there. There was also a woodpile with a pitchfork - Frankenstein and angry villagers springing to mind.


As we walked back down the rain stopped and we were also joined by a couple of cows who seemed to be wending their way home. I found the sound of their cowbells quite intimidating. We got back to the hotel just in time for a quick change out of wet clothes and a bit of mud removal. I had ordered lobiani thinking I was getting bean stew. However, it turned out to be bean stuffed bread. It was tasty but too much. After the meal we took our wine outside and Nick chatted with the other guests. We were then invited to join them in their feast and toasting rounds. In the end these nationalities were represented- Russians, Georgians, Swiss, Bosnian, English, French and Armenian-Scots! It was a raucous evening involving a lot of drinking, terrible singing and Russian dancing. There were going to be a lot of sore heads in the morning!


Posted by Cath_Greig 11:19 Archived in Georgia Tagged hotel drinking chateau_chikovani zeda_gordi Comments (0)

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